Al Fekays played a hunch Friday. And because of it, his Linthicum-Ferndale Post 289 baseball team still had a meaningful game to play later that afternoon.
Fekays sent up Ty Brooks as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the North County graduate connected for a two-run homer to give the hosts a 2-0 victory over Missouri in the Continental Amateur Baseball Association 18-and-under World Series at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.
But the day wasn't over yet.
With little time to savor Brooks'dramatic blast, Post 289 returned to the field to complete a suspended game with Puerto Rico. The teams were tied, 5-5, in the top of theseventh inning Tuesday night when a curfew at Joe Cannon Stadium halted play.
Post 289 failed to score after loading the bases in the top of the seventh, and Puerto Rico pushed across the winning run in the bottom half of the inning.
The loss hurt Post 289's chances ofreaching the eight-team double-elimination playoff round, which was scheduled to begin yesterday, before rain Friday night extended round-robin action an extra day.
Hours earlier, the outlook appeared much brighter for Post 289, thanks to Brooks. And thanks to Fekays' "gut feeling."
Brooks had replaced designated hitter Lance Taylor (Meade), a right-handed swinger who was 0-for-2 against Missouri starterJim Hermann.
Left-hander Brooks jumped on Hermann's first pitch and sent it over the fence in right for his third home run this summer. The others -- at Kinder Park and North County -- came in American Legion League competition.
"I just wanted to hit the ball hard," hesaid. "I knew (Hermann) was throwing fastballs the whole game. I knew what was coming."
Apparently, so did Fekays -- even before Brooks stepped up to the plate.
"(Taylor) didn't seem to make great contact on the ball, and I thought I'd try to put another left-handed hitter against a right-hander," he said. "I was trying to play the percentages. It paid off."
Linthicum-Ferndale began the tournament with two impressive wins Monday. But a promising start gave way to threestraight losses. And disappointment. And desperation.
Where did they go wrong? Better yet, why did so little go right after last Monday's victories over Korea (11-0) and Pennsylvania (4-1)?
"We lost three tough ones," Fekays said. "But we've been bouncing back all year. We've never gotten to a point all year where we've given up in a game, and we've carried that through the tournament."
North County graduate John Ray helped carry Post 289 through Friday's first game with a gutsy pitching performance.
Ray struggled early, putting runners in scoring position in the first three innings. But the slender right-hander only allowed two base-runners after the third inning and finished with a five-hitter.
"He didn't have his best stuff," Fekays said, "but you know you have a good pitcher when he can win without his good stuff."
The Sabres put runners on the corners with one out in the second but couldn't score.
They had another opportunityin the third after Michael Albers reached on a fielder's choice grounder and stole second. Mike Atkinson followed with a single, but Albers was thrown out at home by Post 289 left fielder Bob Bush.
Ray wasn't off the hook just yet.
Randy Rippelmeyer sent a grounder up the middle that Linthicum-Ferndale second baseman Larry Sancomb backhanded to hold Mike Atkinson at third. Rippelmeyer then got caught in a rundown between first and second and was tagged out before Atkinsoncould score.
"My arm's a little tired and I was pitching short," said Ray, who tossed a one-hitter Monday against Korea. He threw 96 pitches Friday.
"The defense was great today," he said. "And we hadtimely hitting, of course. And Hank (Norris), my catcher, always calls a great game. I never shake him off. I couldn't imagine pitching to anyone but Hank.
"I'm just glad Tyrone got that home run. You'vegot to love him right now."
Brooks and Dennis Derflinger, who singled in the third inning, had the only Linthicum-Ferndale hits. Derflinger also walked twice.